Saturday, August 29, 2009

No God, No Me, No Justice, No Mary Jo

Let's finish up this chapter on the limits of pure rationalism.

By the way, our Peevish Traditionalist commenter points out that Schuon and I agree on only 2% of his views. Which in my view is not necessarily a bad thing, because if it were more than that, these posts would be even longer. As it is, it will require dozens of posts just to explicate this single 200+ page book. (I frankly think the 2% figure is absurdly low, but we'll give him the last word.)

It's also a good thing -- or possibly bad, depending upon one's point of view -- that I don't believe Schuon was omniscient, otherwise I would be devoid of my own creativity and reduced to scouring the internet for heretics and commenting on blogs that deviate from the 100% Standard of Agreement.

To put it another way, I will have failed as a cult leader if I become one -- that is, if any of my readers agree with me 100% of the time. In fact, "agreement" is not really the right word, for agreement is perfectly acceptable so long as one has arrived at the same conclusions independently. But there again, "conclusion" is not the correct word either, for what I mean is that, when it comes to realities that transcend the senses, agreement is acceptable so long as we are looking at the same object.

But of course, even then, your view will deviate at least slightly from mine, since you are you and not me. Furthermore, it will hopefully be expressed in your own "idiom," and idiom is indistinguishable from "self." As I mentioned a few posts back, I believe I've discovered a new idiom for expressing timeless truth -- or at least I've never encountered anyone else who rolls in the precise manner I do. But this is ultimately just another way of saying that I have discovered me. And if I have discovered me, then it follows -- logically -- that I have discovered God, since the true self is an "idea" of God -- or, let's keep it neutral and just say "an emanation of O". True, it is in a sense "my God," but God nonetheless.

Now, it goes without saying that only I can discover me. However, if you are a materialist of any sort, then the question doesn't even come up. There is no self to be discovered, and therefore no personal idiom that is its very life and expression. You are not a mode of the infinite, just a freak of the finite.

Schuon uses the image of the circle with the central point radiating out in all direction. Imagine a series of concentric circles around the point. Each circle is a mode of reality, e.g., matter, life, mind, spirit. One of these circles is called "humanness." Thus, each of us is situated at a point on the circle of humanness. We are like different frogs looking at the same haystack from diverse spatial and temporal perspectives.

Being a point, we are our own center. But if you manage to grow to spiritual maturity, then you graduate from the geo-centric (or ego-centric) to the helio-centric view, and realize that your little point orbits around a vastly lager one (and without which there could be no subjective points at all).

Or, you regress to the ec-centric view that there is no center -- neither the little one nor the big One -- only periphery. Yes, it's a strange belief, but someone has to believe it, since this is a full employment cosmos, and it takes all kinds to make a world. In the long run, every insanity and inanity will be believed by someone, given enough monkeys and sufficient tenure. In our Age of Stupidity, belief in one of these impossible realities is often conflated with discovering one's unique idiom. But while "unique," these idioms have nothing universal about them, and cannot be reproduced by another person in his own unique way.

It reminds me somewhat of something Dennis Prager mentioned about how the left is guided by compassion, not standards. He was discussing a townhall meeting in which some poor woman had lost her health insurance and was hysterically weeping while incoherently relating her story. The moonstream media wanted to know: would this tragic tale change the heartless senator's view on the need for socialized medicine? "No."

The point is, compassion cannot be the guiding ideal of the state, since compassion is particular, not universal. Therefore, it is intrinsically unfair. For example, I am infinitely more compassionate toward my own child than I am toward millions of children in Africa. Therefore, if you want to be an idiot about it, you could say that in being compassionate toward my child, I am being cruel and uncompassionate toward the children of Africa.

But this is the nature of compassion. You cannot be equally compassionate toward everyone. And the moment the state tries, it becomes uncompassionate. If it chooses to be "compassionate" toward blacks by mandating racial quotas, then it is by definition uncompassionate toward Asians and Jews who will be displaced. If it lavishes money on AIDS research because of left wing homosexual activists, then there is less money for, say, diabetes research. If it gives "free" healthcare to millions of selfish people who refuse to purchase health insurance, it must take the money from someone else. Etc.

No, a government must be guided by universals, such as justice. Obviously no terrestrial justice can be perfect, nor is it possible to enforce it equally in a non-totalitarian state. But, say, a speed limit of 65 mph does not "discriminate" against people who like to drive 80 mph, even though they will be burdened with the bulk of the speeding tickets. Nor does capital punishment discriminate against blacks just because they commit a disproportionate number of the murders.

If you try to interpret justice through the lens of compassion -- as the left always does -- you unleash hell on earth. This is why the crime rate increased over 100% in the 1960s and then 50% on top of that in the 1970s. This is what happens when a government is motivated by compassion instead of justice.

Again, justice is universal, compassion is particular. A state can be just, but it cannot be compassionate in principle. This does not mean, of course, that it cannot engage in particular acts of compassion, only that this cannot be the first principle, for it inevitably ends in unfairness and lack of compassion. Institute racial quotas for blacks, and soon enough female losers want in on the deal. Then hispanic losers. Then homosexual losers. Then transgendered losers. Pretty soon you have a tyranny of losers whose only real power is the power of the state to discriminate against the worthy. "Social justice" is simply a systematic way for the left to deny justice by replacing it with compassion.

And this all goes back to our original theme on the limits of reason. Rationalism is universal only as it pertains to a single circle around the central point alluded to above. As soon as it tries to reason about those circles closer to the point, it goes off the rails -- literally! A total rationalism would be a totalitarianism, pure and simple, because it would represent a closed system with no center: Ø instead of ʘ.

It very much reminds me of the panic that was engendered in the Soviet Union when Pope John Paul II visited Poland in the early 1980s. It is impossible to convey the depth of what happened, but it was as if a divine ray from above broke thorough the dreary closed system of Marxist totalitarianism, or the spiritual center crashed into the material periphery of the world. People were quite literally revived. Suddenly there was hope. Hayward writes that after the Pope's visit, suicides fell by a third in Poland, while alcohol consumption dropped by a quarter. (Hayward's book, The Age of Reagan: The Conservative Counterrevolution, 1980-1989, is Highly Recommended.)

Indeed, it is becoming difficult to convey the depth of the transformation that occurred in this country with the ascendence of the cheerful, strong, confident, wise, and optimistic Ronald Reagan. Perhaps not. Just think of the dour, weak, humorless, pessimistic, and ignorant Obama, and imagine the opposite. It's like Welcome Back, Carter. Note that the latter character traits are privations, so that of the two, only Reagan approximates the universal. But in so being, he was paradoxically -- but nonetheless naturally -- "one of a kind."

Conversely, as one of our trolls recently reminded us, if one is only "compassionate" -- meaning, of course, liberal -- enough, one is free to betray one's country and transgress the most elementary standards of justice and decency. One can become a good monster.

Friday, August 28, 2009

On the Certainty of Doubt and Vision of the Blind

Over 130 comments yesterday. Which once again proves -- as if it were necessary -- that there's just no end to the sophistries to which the godless cling in order to try to prove to themselves that God doesn't exist.

But there is no such proof, only adequation, so trying to "prove" something to the inadequate is obviously a complete and total waste of time. Unless you somehow enjoy the exercise. I do not. I haven't the slightest interest in the fantasies of the godless, except insofar as the manner in which they threaten my life, my property, and my liberty.

As Schuon explains, these relativists absurdly "dispute the value of metaphysical certainty" by setting it in opposition to the "certitude of error." For example, one familiar troll trotted out the old optical illusion argument -- as if the existence of illusions doesn't prove the reality!

Only a human being can say to himself, "I thought it was a _____, but dang, what it really was was a _____!" The illusion is dependent upon the reality, not vice versa. This is elementary. Not only did God become man so that man might become God, but more generally, reality becomes appearance so that appearance might become reality. In a way, we are all "optical illusions" until we see through the various layers of contingency and realize who and what we actually are. We are not an error, only in error -- which is always a privation, not an essence.

Doubt is not truth, only a way to truth, specifically, a forswearing of immediate appearances in order to await the arrival of truth, which is anterior to appearances. I doubt that the sun travels around the earth, but don't end my inquiry there. Rather, I eventually arrive at the truth that the earth travels around the sun, which is true enough in its own way, and is certainly adequate to get me through life. I don't really need to know that the Milky Way spirals around its own invisible center, and all the rest. It's all very nice, but it's not as if it's going to save my life or help the Dodgers fend off the Rockies.

It reminds me of an aesthetically needy friend who was hanging some of his wife's paintings in the office yesterday. He asked me how they looked, and I said "retarded" or "aesthetically dyslexic." He eagerly asked how and where they were supposed to go, and I explained that this one had to go there, that those two needed a third to balance them out, that this one should be in the middle, that that one needed to be closer to the light, and that the wall over there should remain empty in order to give him an occasional respite from thinking about Debbie all day. Fifteen hours a day should be enough for any woman.

Now, how did I know these things? I am not gay. Nor did anyone ever teach them to me. Frankly, given a little time, I could have fine-tuned things, but the point is, I just knew that the existing arrangement was not only retarded in its totality, but in so being, did damage to the individual paintings, which were unable to reveal their full potential as a result of being in the wrong place and in the wrong hands.

Does this little anecdote prove the existence of God? No. It's just one more little clue out of hundreds that routinely occur each day. Add up all the circumstantial evidence, and eventually the proof is overwhelming. Except to the jury nullification of atheism.

My friend was only mildly aesthetically bewildered, but certainly educable -- and not resentful, of all things, about the advice. Once the paintings were in place, he immediately apprehended the truth of the situation. Thus, we saw the same reality. But an aesthetically retarded individual can actually believe all kinds of things that cannot possibly be beautiful and therefore true. Much modern art falls into this category, but this type of infrahuman art is ultimately to beauty what atheism is to truth. It is parasitic, not symbiotic.

As Schuon explains -- and which our trolls prove -- "The fact that a lunatic feels certain he is something that he is not does not prevent us from being certain of what he is and what we ourselves are, and the fact that we are unable to prove to him that he is mistaken does not prevent us from being right." Perhaps it's my training and experience as a psychotherapist, but the idea of arguing with a troll is entirely foreign to me. It just doesn't come up as a viable option.

Again, in analytic therapy, there are always two things (actually, many more than two) going on. There is what you observe and verbally share; and there is what the patient does with it. The latter is particularly important and requires a lot of discipline, because you have to exit the everyday mode of semantic discourse, and "hover above" so as to observe what is going on from a meta-level. One must be particularly attentive to the myriad ways a patient "disunderstands" what you convey to them, for this disunderstanding is a consequence of their pathology. Generally, the sicker the person, the greater the disunderstanding.

So to continue with Schuon, "the fact that an unbalanced person may possibly have misgivings about his condition does not oblige us to have them about our own, even if we find it impossible to prove to him that our certainty is well founded." One can well imagine an angry patient firing back with words to the effect of, Oh, I see. You're right by definition. Everyone who disagrees with you has 'mind parasites.' Well, your clever insights into me might appeal to your other dim-witted patients, but you don't fool me. They probably all think you're some kind of perfect being, but I see what a pompous ass you are.

Again, far be it from me to argue with a patient's perceptions of me and farther be it to argue with the eccentric ravings of a troll, who is simply the inevitable illusion that proves the truth. Indeed, if I were to argue, I would simply reinforce them. At this point you will have a variety of options, but much depends upon the quality of the therapeutic relationship and the patient's capacity for insight. But in any case, you always come back to O, that is, to the emotional truth of the immediate situation, for example, "I see that you're very angry with me right now. Can you say more about what it feels like I'm doing to you at the moment?"

Ultimately you want to get beneath the surface into unconscious fantasy material that links up the past with the present emotions felt toward me. But the key point to bear in mind -- for it equally applies to supraconscious realities -- is that the type of truth we are discussing cannot be proved, only undergone. And more often than not, a truth must not only be "undergone," but even suffered. For as Bion said, if one cannot suffer pain, one cannot suffer pleasure. The most profound truths are truly "catastrophic" because they leave no lie standing. No wonder people resist them! Father let this cup pass, etc.

So as Schuon says, "the only proof of hidden realities... is the realities themselves." (Yes, I fully understand that Schuon did not approve of psychoanalysis, but I see no evidence that he was acquainted with any post-Freudian developments; rather, he only tilted his lance at Freud, which is easy enough to do.)

Again, there is always going to be a gap between the proof and the reality. There is always an element of volition that allows us to accept or reject a proof. Thus, in insisting that we "prove" the existence of God, the atheist is asking for something that cannot be. Rather, proofs are "only pointers or keys," and even then, only to the adequate person of good will who actually wishes to know. "[T]he inward discovery of truth is always a leap into the void -- a leap incommensurate with mental premises, concepts, or other symbols" (Schuon).

Only a human being can "take the leap." For even to doubt is to express the implicit idea that the mind "is competent to doubt." But who said so? Analogously, to paraphrase Schuon, it is like examining the optic nerve in order to make certain that it is competent to see. But who's doing the examining? Let's also examine his optic nerve, and his, and his, and his, all the way back to sightless matter.

Ah ha! I finally see that vision is an optical illusion!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Business of Isness: What Is Is and Isn't

Some of the comments yesterday prove that no matter how clearly one says something, a willful mind will see in it what it wishes to see. I understand the stupidity, but why the arrogant stupidity? I am speaking of the people who persistently conflate science and scientism, and then accuse us of somehow being "anti-science." I don't see how Schuon could be more clear:

"Our principle criticism of modern philosophy and science is that they venture directly or indirectly onto planes beyond their compass and operate without regard to indispensable data." This statement should qualify as a truism, but apparently it is not. I suppose the reason for this is that the materialist simply doesn't know what he doesn't know, and when he is reminded of this fact, his only defense is that his interlocutor is "anti-science," or "anti-reality," or even "hateful."

One must always begin somewhere. But that doesn't mean one must end there. However, in the case of materialism, it is very difficult, if not impossible, to escape its initial assumptions -- assumptions that are of course not warranted or justified by the philosophy of materialism.

In other words, matter cannot say "only matter exists," for as soon as it says so, it has surely transcended matter -- unless we radically redefine what matter "is." But in order do this, one must also redefine what "is" is, because the materialist's first assumption is that matter is reality. Therefore, in order to be consistent, he would have to say something along the lines of "matter contemplating itself is reality" (and vice versa, since "is" is a statement of equivalence).

Here again, Schuon could hardly be more clear: "rationalism itself starts fairly and squarely with a 'dogma,' namely, its gratuitous axiom that nothing exists except what is supplied to us by the reason in service to its sensible perceptions."

At One Cosmos, we always try to be fair to our ideological adversaries -- fairness meaning to swiftly give them what they deserve, right in the nuts -- so I'd like to know just what about Schuon's formulation is unfair? How could anyone in good faith object to it, unless they are so dogmatic that they don't even understand that they have a dogma? For materialism isn't special. It is a philosophy just like any other, only much worse.

Here is Schuon's next premise, which again strikes me as unassailable, whatever your belief system: "Whoever wants to be a realist must resign himself to the obvious fact that all thought has to start from an initial premise, which cannot come from thought itself but which must include an element of certainty whose soundness thought cannot delineate."

To my knowledge, Schuon never mentioned Gödel's theorems in his writings, but he is essentially affirming the identical truth -- which only proves that you needn't be a genius logician to arrive at principial truth and therefore reality. You must only think to the end (and therefore beginning) of thought; or to the Alpha and OMega, if you like.

Anti-religious human beastlings routinely -- again gratuitously -- conflate the supernatural and the irrational, which only results in the collapse of the vertical, which is man's proper home. It is his true environment, as he is perfectly capable of living in a variety of geographic climates by taking the climate with him, so to speak. For example, if it is too cold outside, I simply turn up the heat and recreate a mediterranean climate indoors.

But what about the subjective climate? A culture is the creation of a human climate. Thus, we have "climates of opinion" and such. For example, the liberal climate of opinion makes it difficult utter a simple truth, such as "Ted Kennedy was a drunken, monstrous, sleazy, and misogynistic sexual predator." Such things are only permitted "outside" official liberal reality.

Culture operates exactly like the unconscious mind, in that it defends its "truths" with great force and punishes transgressors ("political correctness" is simply the sum total of leftist defenses against reality). The purpose of a psychological defense mechanism is actually to prevent the truth from even being seen or known to begin with. You know what they say: out of mind, out of insight. If the truth does accidentally come out, that signifies a failure of the defense mechanism, and therefore the need for even more repression, splitting, or denial.

This is why the left treats a Rush Limbaugh the way it does. First of all, it is a "mistake" that he ever came into existence to begin with, that is, a failure of the various layers of liberal ideological defense mechanisms, i.e., media, academia, entertainment, etc. But now that he does exist, he is treated exactly like an unwanted symptom of a neurotic person.

More generally, this is why Obama -- and the left in general -- simply cannot function without enemies, whether the CIA agents who protect us from terror, insurance companies, doctors, whatever. The point is that having enemies is not an effect, but a cause. The whole point is to have enemies to project into and therefore preserve their illusions -- again, exactly like a neurotic person.

I remember when I realized this about a certain person in my life who always likes to argue. Eventually it dawned on me that the arguing actually had no point. Rather, it was the point. It was just a way to manage his own psychic life. Truth was utterly beside the point. Or, one might say that the energy produced by arguing was the "emotional truth" of the situation.

It is actually not uncommon to encounter patients with this problem. To use a gustatory analogy, they will do anything with the truth you give them but swallow it -- play with it, spit it out, throw it back at you, bite it, turn their head away from it, ask for dessert first, etc.

Schuon had nothing personal against Descartes in particular or the French in general. Nevertheless, he points out that "the rationalism of a frog living at the bottom of a well is to deny the existence of mountains: perhaps this is 'logic,' but it has nothing to do with reality." To think otherwise is to put Descartes before 'da hearse, for it is a philosophy of death -- death to the soul and death to the intellect. This is the kind of climate change that actually does kill man -- vertical man, or man-as-such.

Although we cannot directly know the thing-in-itself, we can know that we don't know it, which is certainly good enough for me, for to know that fact is to have transcended it, and to have participated in absoluteness. In other words, to know one is relative is a to have already transcended relativity, at least to a degree. Thus, "to declare that our perceptions fail to convey the whole object amounts to saying that things are not perceived by the whole Subject." Therefore, it is just another way of acknowledging that we are not God. But we knew that already. It's the atheists who don't know.

It reminds me of how human beings are able to recognize faces that they have never actually seen. I think I'm remembering the experiment correctly, but researchers demonstrated that human beings are able to see the profile of another person they've never seen before, and match it up with the frontal view (and vice versa). The point is that even a very partial view is able to reveal the totality. We can see a circular object approaching us, and do not have to view it from every conceivable angle to know it is a sphere. Indeed, man would be paralyzed if he had to do this in order to act or think.

The reason why this works so smoothly is that the world is in the soul, not vice versa. We are actually at a higher dimension than the world, so we have no problem embracing the lower dimensions. We live in eternity, so we know time; our minds are infinite, so we know finite space; we live in truth, so we know facts; etc.

Now.... now I think I'll stop for today. That should be enough to keep you rascals busy 'til tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

A Critique of the Critique of Pure Reason

Continuing with Schuon's discussion of rationalism and its defects, he implicitly addresses Kant's belief that we cannot know the thing-in-itself -- the noumena, O -- only the phenomena, Ø. (In reality, "noumena" should be noumenon, since it cannot be plural, but we will respect Kant's terminology.)

Stay with me, folks, because this is important. Kant really represents the turning point in the stream of philosophy, which runs down into all the creeks, crocks, and sewer lines we know of today. On the one hand, it ushered in the pseudo-philosophy of scientistic materialism in all its varieties, on the other, the many forms of irrational romanticism (leftism combines the worst of each).

Whitehead once said that the history of Western philosophy is just a footnote on Plato. However, I think it would be equally accurate to say that all postmodern philosophy is simply a footnote on Kant, since Kant opened up that annoying abyss between human beings and reality. Up until Kant, it was assumed -- yes, sometimes naively -- that human beings could know reality. But Kant's philosophy begins and ends with the undermining of that sanguine view. Hence the "critique" of pure reason, and the strict demarcation of its limits.

I think one must concede that Kant's critique has a certain superficial appeal, especially for the spiritually untutored man. A very accessible book on the subject is Confessions of a Philosopher, by Bryan Magee. And his book on Schopenhauer is a classic.

Don't worry, I don't want to get too pedantic here and put our troll to sleep again. Let me just say that I was never a Kantian, but I was a Schopenhauerian, in that I felt that he had addressed the limitations of Kant by essentially arguing that we could not know the thing-in-itself -- the noumenon -- but we could be it, so to speak, since it is our prior reality.

This view is superficially similar to the Upanishads, and indeed Schopenhauer was happily flabbergeisted when he stumbled upon one of the first copies of the Upanishads translated into German. He thought that the Vedic seers were saying the same thing he was.

But they weren't. In Vedanta, the distinction between noumena and phenomena -- or appearance and reality -- is more or less conveyed by the terms maya and brahman. The ultimate goal of the spiritual ascent is to climb from the former to the latter, which is none other than "liberation," or the realization of the Real (i.e., there is Reality, and there is realizing it, two different things that are ultimately ʘne, or not-two, to be precise).

But the Upanishads are not actually as dualistic as this division of appearance and reality implies. Long story short, maya may be "illusion" in a certain sense, but it is actually quite real. It is just not ultimate reality. So long as we are not God, we must necessarily live in "maya." But this hardly implies that there is a strict duality between Reality and fantasy, with no connecting link between them. In fact -- and we will get more into this later -- there are no "gaps" at all between God and everything else, due to God's immanence.

Here again, this is what I was endeavoring to convey nonverbally in my book, with the chapters running together and divided in mid-sentence. In other words, from the relative point of view, certain things appear "impossible" to man's reason, most notably, that dead matter can suddenly come alive and become conscious of itself.

In short, the world clearly appears discontinuous to our reason, e.g., "mind and matter." Reason can and does invent all kinds of speculative fantasies to fill the gap -- e.g., reductionistic Darwinism -- but such a person is in the final analysis constrained by Kant's critique. So the point of my structuring the chapters in that discontinuously continuous way was to explicitly note the ontological divisions in reality -- i.e., matter, life, mind, and spirit -- even while implicitly conveying their actual unity. And the unity can only flow from the top, never the bottom. The latter is literally unthinkable, which is why so much nonsense is generated if one tries to get around Kant (much less Gödel) with any form of pure reason.

So, how do we get around Kant? Easy. We do it all the time, every day, in varying degrees. Once you have inverted the cosmos (or yourself) back to its proper orientation, then you begin with wholeness and unity, not multiplicity and fragmentation. The unity is indeed our prior condition. Again, as I have argued in the past, this is the "purpose" of our right cerebral hemisphere, which intuits and lives in unity, while the right brain discloses multiplicity. To be "healthy" is to live in the dynamic transcendent space that is always unifying the two.

With this tedious preface, I believe we are in a better position to understand what Schuon means when he says that "the whole point of knowledge is the perception of the thing-in-itself," without which "the very notion of perception could not exist." He points out that "the inherent nature of things" is to "pierce through their appearances." In other words, the form conveys something of the essence, which is knowledge, precisely.

Now, there are naturally degrees of adequation, but kantrary to Manny, this does not render our knowledge false or illusory. Again, it is not a matter of either/or, but of our depth of penetration into the thing-in-itself. From a philosophical standpoint, I believe that Polanyi has most ably developed this idea of science as a kind of inward journey into the Real, thus giving us a coherent post-critical philosophy that transcends Kant and is easily able to reconcile science and religion in their highest aspirations.

Recall my description of the deep continuity of the cosmos, which can only come from "above." Schuon points out that every form of rationalism ignores the fact that reason flows in two directions, one ascending, the other descending.

The descending form tries to deploy reason to describe or convey what is known through the direct perception of intellection. For example, this is how the classic proofs of God are to be understood. They are showing with reason what can ultimately only be known directly by the higher mind/heart. The perception of God is by no means "proved" -- much less disproved -- through the dialectic of reason. As Schuon has remarked elsewhere, something is not true because it is rational, but rather, the reverse: it is rational because it is true.

Thus, the descending from of reason is "communicating." In contrast, the ascending form is "actualizing." By participating "in the intellection that is being communicated," one is able to actualize a truth. Therefore, it is completely erroneous and wrongheaded to reduce reason to a kind of linear and mechanical operation, as if we are mere robots or computers or trolls. If such were the case, "then discoveries would be mere conclusions. Were there percepts for genius, then men of genius would be hacks" (Lonergan).

But of course, in our topsy-turvy postmodern world, our wack & hackademics are considered men of genius -- all those radical secularists, materialists, and metaphysical Darwinians who know everything about nothing. Schuon:

"The position of science is exactly like that of a man who could grasp only two dimensions of space and denied the third because he was unable to imagine it; now, what one spatial dimension is to another, so is the suprasensible to the sensible, or more precisely: so is the animic to the corporeal, the spiritual to the animic, and the Divine to the humanly spiritual."

In short, One Cosmos Under God, however you slice it.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Irrational Rationalism, Untrue Truth, and Illiberal Liberty

Next up in Logic and Transcendence is chapter three, Rationalism Real and Apparent. This will no doubt require more than one post to unpack, as it is full of vital information that every human being needs to know in order to resist the depredations of the secular idiobots, scientistic matter jockeys, and Darwinian DNA hosts, and their intrinsically anti-human agenda.

Once again I am reminded that Schuon is not only perhaps the greatest religious thinker of the 20th century, but -- and for that very reason -- the greatest humanist. And since his stance embodies the essence of real humanism, it stands to reason that those who explicitly or implicitly oppose it are trying to undermine and eliminate our very humanness. It is again confusing, because some of the worst offenders in this regard are called "humanists" (cf. Dr. Sanity's post on the brave New Enlightenment).

Let's begin with a discussion of the limits of reason. If one fails to understand that reason is grounded in something that transcends reason, one renders oneself intellectually blind and spiritually deaf, or an autodeceiver. As Schuon explains, there are two conditions that always condition the effectiveness of our reasoning, one of which is internal, the other external.

The internal factor is "the acuity and profundity of the intelligence" involved. This factor obviously transcends reason, as it varies dramatically in the human mom & population. Shallow and deep thinkers are equally capable of reasoning. For example, in the hands of a shallow intellect such as Charles the Queeg, reason simply confirms its own shallowness, and searches no further. Reason encircles itself and closes up shop, just waiting for the dirt to fall or fire to consume.

But intelligence is not simply a linear phenomenon, as the one-dimensional measurement of IQ would imply. Rather, intelligence "goes beyond the indirect processes of reason in calling upon pure intellection." A mere rationalist is simply someone who is, for whatever reason, unable to reason adequately in realms that transcend the material.

The second factor that interferes with intelligence is again external. It has to do with "the value or extent of the available information." It is more than just a case of "garbage in, garbage out," because the rationalist systematically excludes whole dimensions of reality in trying to describe reality, most notably, revelation in both its principle modes, i.e., God's vertical messages to the human subject, and the human subject as such.

As we have mentioned many times, the human subject is without question the most astonishing fact of the cosmos, but rationalism would reduce the subject to just one of the items in its vast bag of tricks, i.e., logic. However, anyone but a rationalist knows that logic cannot furnish its own materials on which to operate.

It is a "sign of the times" -- i.e., the Age of Stupidity -- that it is even necessary to point out that not every problem can be solved by means of logic alone. Again, to even attempt to do this is both inhuman and anti-human.

It reminds me of CDs, which have to chop off the top and bottom of the musical signal in order to fit it onto the disc. Yes, it provides a facsimile of the music, but something indefinable is lost in translation, most especially the subtleties of the human voice. This post at American Digest inspired me to appreciate my vinyl more than I do, and it's just undeniable. Interestingly, if you "try" to hear the difference, you may not notice. Rather, you have to just passively listen, and notice the different effect on one's being. It's somewhat like the difference between film and video, but more subtle, since the ears are more subtle than the eyes. But religion is similar, in that it subtly discloses other worlds that will be inaccessible to the substitious materialist.

Anyway, the bottom line is that "all thoroughgoing rationalism is false by definition." Think of the implications of this: truth and falsehood lie outside the realm of mere (small-r) reason, a realm that we can know -- and only know -- a priori. If this hasn't yet "clicked" for you, it will as we proceed. But it is a critical point to bear in mind, especially when it comes to the proofs of God, which can only "indicate" in the manner of a great work of art-- and even then only to a person of good will and sufficient intelligence who actually wishes to understand them.

Another critical point: when intellection is rejected, it doesn't just disappear, any more than an unconscious conflict disappears by denying it. Rather, it is simply replaced by all kinds of crazy things, from Marxism, to metaphysical Darwinism, to Scientology, you name it.

What really happens is that the individual severs himself from the objective world disclosed by pure intellection, and plunges himself into subjectivism. If you are following me, this is the source of the left's perverse forms of "freedom." Really, it is the transgressive freedom to be stupid, evil, or insane, so we really need a different word to describe it. Perhaps "lawlessness." But lawlessness is simply the law of the jungle.

Regarding the profundity of intelligence alluded to above; again, we are not talking about a two-dimensional line that can plot different degrees of smarts. Rather, there are two-dimensional, three-dimensional, and hyperdimensional intellects. Furthermore, the lower dimensional intellect cannot know of the higher dimension except through its products, which will initially appear as either magic or foolishness. But if it can truly grasp the products of the higher dimension, it can begin to assimilate and embody it. This is my [hyperdimensional] body, etc.

This is elementary. One of the joys of watching my son grow and develop is witnessing his slow (actually freakishly rapid) conquest of more subtle dimensions of humanness. It never ceases to amaze. It's quite obvious that he is not simply becoming more intelligent or logical in some linear way. Rather, it's much more a case of whole new spaces opening up to him.

Of course, these spaces need to be mirrored by the environment, or they will simply close up again. The law of pneuma-neurology is "use it or lose it." Many if not virtually all atheists have simply abandoned the brain circuits they need in order to know God. Like any skill, from writing to archery, it requires practice. Only Kim Jong Il and Barack Obama can produce a literary classic with no prior experience at writing.

You are now in the position to understand the ironic fact that pure rationalism does not disclose the objective world. Rather, it eventually "gives way to individualism [the bad kind] and arbitrariness insofar as it is divorced from the intellect." The One Truth is thereby replaced with a multitude of kooky so-called truths. Again, the only way one could believe the fairy tale of metaphysical Darwinism is to live in an eccentric world of pure subjectivity detached from the Real, but reinforced by other spiritual retards.

And it is ec-centric, or "outside the circle," the circle whose center is everywhere because the intellect is. Yes, human beings are without question the center of the cosmos regarded vertically, not horizontally (think of the point at the top of a cone, without which there could be no cone). Horizontally, it is correct to say that there is no center, only periphery, and therefore no truth or intellect. But that just proves the intrinsic stupidity of horizontal intelligence divorced from its vertical source and ground.

Intelligence as such is intrinsically unlimited, and therefore not reducible to the horizontal. Or, if it is limited, who limited it? Who put up the wall, if not intelligence? But if intelligence can wall itself in, it can also transcend the walls it imposes upon itself.

"Hence" -- logically! -- "one of two things: either the intelligence by definition includes a principle of illimitability or liberty, whatever the degree of its actualization, in which case there is no need to attribute limits to it." Or, intelligence includes "a principle of limitation or constraint, in which case it no longer includes any certainty and can function no differently from the intelligence of animals..." (Schuon).

Which is why only the religious man can be free and why the radical humanist is a slave or worse, i.e., a slave trader or slaveholder.

Monday, August 24, 2009

I Know Why the Caged Birdbrain Sings Off-Key

As we've discussed in the past, what we used to call the Real is now considered by most garden-variety intellectuals as abstract, whereas what used to be considered totally contingent and therefore unreal -- i.e., matter -- is now considered to be the ultimate reality. It's similar, I suppose, to how the illiberal left is misleadingly called "liberal," whereas freedom-loving classical liberals are now called conservative.

And no, that wasn't just a gratuitous pimpslap. Rather, I think the reasons for the switch are similar, for the essence of conservatism is belief in a transcendent and permanent order to which we owe our primary fidelity, whereas the essence of leftism is rejection of the transcendent and allegiance to matter, i.e., to a single level material ontology.

That being the case, the leftist is absolutely committed to maya, hence his inability to think coherently or to reason on the plane of virtue. Obviously there are plenty of intelligent leftists. But for the vertically challenged, it is a matter of garbage in, garbage out: first comes maya; then comes angelou.

As Schuon explains, the transcendent order is "perfectly accessible to pure intellection." Far from being abstract, it is the most concrete thing imaginable, because it is not subject to change, and is "always there."

In contrast, matter is always changing. You might even say that it is "change as such." But the essence of intelligence is "the capacity to discern 'substances' through 'accidents.'" Thus, to insist that the accidents are more real than the substance "can only be described as a kind of philosophical codifying of unintelligence."

As you can see, this warps intelligence itself, for in reducing it to a reflection of matter, you have undermined its very reason for being. By supposing that intelligence is contingent, you have sundered it from truth, from substance, from the eternal.

Obviously, the reason intelligence can know the substance is that it shares in the substance. Ultimately the intellect is made of the same truth it is able to discern in accidents. To know truth is to exit contingency and to touch eternal being.

Truth, like freedom, is always there, waiting to for us to "enter it," so to speak. Schuon cites the example of a bird that has escaped from its cage: "we say it is free; we might just as truly say that freedom has burst forth from a particular point of the cosmic carapace or that it has taken possession of the bird, or again that it has manifested itself through this creature or form." What he means by this is that freedom is anterior; it is "that which is, which always has been, which will always be." In contrast, liberation is "something that occurs."

For example, we liberated Iraqis so that they might know freedom. Closer to home, America's founders liberated us (tried, anyway) so that we might live in freedom. Here again you see the problem. For the left, freedom is not a priori; rather, it is conferred by the state. But the state cannot confer freedom and other valuable prizes to one person or group unless it appropriates them from another. It cannot "give" healthcare unless it "takes" labor, capital, research, innovation, and Slack.

It reminds me of that sign you sometimes see in small businesses: quality, speed, low price. Pick any two. That pretty much summarizes what will happen with socialized medicine. Only in freedom can the three achieve their natural equilibrium and Death Panels (by any name) be avoided.

You will have noticed that nothing incenses the left more than when one of their victims has escaped from their cage and a point of liberty has been realized in the cosmos. They especially despise blacks and females who are actually free, for they are a painful reminder that real freedom is still possible. This is the real reason they so despise a Clarence Thomas or Sarah Palin. How dare they not be dependent upon brave and kindhearted liberals who struggled for tenure to give them their freedom!

Existentialism -- by which Schuon means all philosophies that deny essence -- is a "monstrous contortion" that presents "the commonest stupidity as intelligence," "disguising it as philosophy while at the same time holding intelligence up to ridicule, that of all intelligent men of all times." Only an intellectual class that has forgotten how to think could ever embrace a philosophy as barren as materialism: "All down through the ages to philosophize was to think; it was left to the twentieth century not to think and to make a philosophy of it."

Now naturally we cannot know absolute truth, or else we would be God. In other words, possession of absolute truth would be identical to the thing in itself, which is impossible in any realm. Rather, we are always dealing with the question of adequation. So long as we are relative beings, there is no absolutely adequate formulation, and to imagine there could be is "the most fruitless of occupations." In the end, religion provides a more than adequate framework for human understanding of the divine planes, but it cannot bridge the gap between God and man on its own.

Rather, that remaining gap can only be diminished by faith on the one hand, and grace on the other. This creates a kind of spark in the dark that undoes that disagreeable business that took place in the park.

Further problems result from man severing his ties with his transcendent source. When that happens, standards obviously go out the window as well -- not just intellectual standards, but aesthetic and moral standards as well (for truth can never be tossed overboard without drowning love and beauty in the process).

This is why, as Dennis Prager always says, the left is the party of compassion rather than standards. But to throw away standards is actually a profoundly uncompassionate act, for you have eliminated man's reason for being and condemned him to a meaningless scuffle for animal satisfactions. Compassion regards "the average as the norm" whereby mediocrity becomes the rule. How could mediocrity not be the norm in a culture devoid of higher truth?

But man always seeks transcendence, and if he cannot escape "from above" he will do so from "below." Thus, mediocrity soon descends into artistic decadence, intellectual vulgarity, and moral degeneracy. This is why Schuon says that these "narrow-minded protagonists of the concrete" usher in "the most unrealistic and most inhuman" forms of politics. They may look like mere change chumps, but they're really quite dangerous. Not to mention expensive.

(The Schuon quotes are found in Logic and Transcendence.)


Good intentions backfire if one is mired in untruth. Roger Kimball:

'But what about the malevolence? It all depends on what you mean by “malevolence.” When you calculate a quantum of evil, do you look only at intentions? Or do you also take into account the effects of certain actions, regardless of the intentions of those who brought them about? (Hint: we have here a road paved with good intentions: where do you suppose it leads?) I think the commentator Jim Cramer was onto something when he lamented that “We’ve elected elected a Leninist” whose “agenda is destroying the life savings of millions of Americans.” Was Lenin malevolent? He didn’t think so. He thought he was laboring on behalf of the poor and disenfranchised. Many Western intellectuals believed him. True, his policies — like socialist policies wherever they’re imposed — led to vast immiseration, loss of freedom, and the growth of an unaccountable ruling nomenklatura. But he didn’t mean to precipitate misery: he meant to bring about paradise on earth.'

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Truth and Me: A Love Story

This is instructive, for "what is a bad man but a good man's teacher?" In a post about the cause of stupidity -- which is obviously intelligence, since the reverse could never be true -- our stupid troll naturally takes exception to my certainty of this. He mentions no objection to the actual content, only to my bobnoxious certainty.

This is odd for a couple of reasons. First, isn't it self evident that whatever I say, I believe to be true? But this is precisely the absurdity of the relativist: there is no truth, and that's the truth!

You know the old dadactic gag, "this is not writing."

Second, no relativist actually believes his own BS, otherwise why get angry about someone else's BS? If relativism is true, then it's all just BS by another name, and power is all that counts. But you will have noticed that you never hear relativists say, for example, "there is no 'right' to abortion, for how could anyone be certain that a fetus is not a human being?"

In my experience, liberals are quite certain of the rightness of keynesian economics, or of moral relativism, or of multiculturalism, or of government mandated racial discrimination, or of "climate change," or that freedom of choice in primary education is a bad thing, or that all murderers should be kept alive at taxpayer expense, etc. If you disagree with the left, you're not just wrong, but a well-dressed bedwetting nazi racist employed by the insurance companies.


For the record, I never write anything of which I am not certain, or which I have not personally tested and experienced. You perceptive readers out there will have noticed that I never "get ahead of myself" and begin opining about things that are above my praygrade. When a spiritual writer does this, the phoniness always comes through.

This is one of the ubiquitous dangers of the occult. People can have all kinds of "spiritual experiences" of limited domains. But as a result of ego inflation, they take a little knowledge and then begin spouting off about things they couldn't possibly know. A giveaway is that their "system" will be unique to them, instead of generally comporting with what the great saints and sages have always said throughout history (cf The Spiritual Ascent). (Either that or it won't be a system at all, just an ad hoc jumble.) You will have to take much of what they say on faith, instead of being able to arrive at it independently.

Having said that, I do believe it is possible to go too far in the other direction, and to overemphasize the universal at the expense of the particular. This is one of the areas with which I would respectfully disagree with Schuon, but I am perfectly willing to concede up front that I may be wrong about this. What I mean is that I am not attempting to innovate, or to deviate from perennial truth and come up with my own system. Again, I am not L. Bob Gagdad.

Rather, I am simply attempting to convey the old truths in a new way. And not just a new way, but an utterly unique way, being that I am utterly unique (as is everyone else). This is how it is possible to simultaneously discover universal truth, even while discovering one's unique and particular self.

Do you see what I mean? Normally those two things -- universal and particular -- would stand at antipodes. But in the spiritual ascent, it is possible for the one to be a reflection of the other. One might even go so far as to say that there is no universal, only individual instances of it. For example, there is no separate platonic ideal of a table, only actual instances of the ideal instantiated in all of the diverse tables. So there's no ideal, even though there is.

Again, by far the best analogy I've found for this is real jazz. Jazz deals with a universal aesthetic, but the individual jazz greats do not converge toward this ideal and all sound the same. Far from it! The greater the jazz artist, the more unique his conception and his sound.

Indeed, this is one of the reasons I love jazz. The greatest masters create their own musical world, and yet, it is still within the tradition. It still respects a universal aesthetic, even if it is sometimes difficult to hear this when they are starting out. For example, Thelonious Monk sounded "radical" in the 1940s, but by the early 1960s he was on the cover of Time Magazine. He already sounded a bit old-fashioned, even though he was still cutting edge.

So two things will always come through in my writing: truth, which I hope is timeless, universal, and impersonal. And me, which is obviously personal and I hope at least entertaining.

Look at it this way: you can take the same standard from the American songbook -- say, Witchcraft -- and listen to it played by Liberace, or a Nordstrom pianist, or by Monk. Each will play the same song. And yet, it won't be the same song at all, because for the jazz pianist, the song is simply the basis for improvisation. But no matter how much he improvises and departs from the melody, he is still within the deep structure of the song. You might say that he is spontaneously exploring the hidden implications of the song's structure, which is why jazz is "the sound of surprise" -- including for the artist.

Now, as I go through this book by Schuon and blog my thoughts, this is precisely what I am doing. I am simply taking his rather stately and somber melody, and jazzing it up a bit. Making it swing... a TOE-tapper.

Would Schuon say that I am a common and vulgar man? No doubt. I don't need Traditionalists to remind me of this. But he would probably say that about America in general and certainly about jazz. Truly, it's an American thing. I just love America and the whole idea of America, which I see as spiritual through and through. That, of course, is where the politics comes in, because I want to preserve an America that treasures its jazz tradition. Especially in theology.

That was meant to be a brief intro. Oh well. We only have a little bit more to go in chapter one of Logic and Transcendence, The Contradiction of Relativism.

Ah, perfect segue! Schuon goes into the four essential limitations or "infirmities" of the soul, one of which touches on the issue I raised above about the universal and the particular.

We begin with the Big One. Yes, we are not God. We are "creature, not Creator, manifestation and not Principle or Being." I am certainly aware of this. In fact, only the godless can be unaware of the fact that they are not God, which is one of the great sources of their mischief.

Two, we are not angels. We are not celestial beings but terrestrial ones. We are not at the top of the vertical hierarchy, nor are we at the bottom (at least at the outset of our lives). Rather, we are somewhere in the middle -- which, of course, goes to the issue of free will, as we are suspended halfway between our better and worse selves. A saint is a man who has more or less succeeded in elevating himself to the border between 2 and 3. Thus, he is like an angel on earth.

Third, -- and this is the one I touched on above -- I am me and you are you. We are different. Thank God! And I mean that literally, for our individual differences -- at least for the Christian -- are not accidental or contingent. Rather, our differences are essential. For those of you with more than one child, this is obvious. The differences are a blessing, not a curse. Every face is unique, and yet, a member of the human family. God has counted every hair on your head. We're all different to him (which is the source of our differences, in that we are different ideas of God). And yet mankind is one.

Fourth are the differences that are not essential but contingent. These are the mind parasites. They are "accidental infirmities" that cause a man to sink beneath himself. The problem with a mind parasite is that it's not you, only pretending to be. It is a difference that is from earth (or lower), not heaven.

Now, you can see the mayhem that results if we don't keep these categories straight. The leftist -- because he turns the cosmos upside down and inside out -- begins with #4, and then elevates it to the highest good. Again, this is why the Democrat party is the party of eccentrics, cranks, weirdos, freaks, perverts, misfits, losers, reactionary rebels, rebellious conformists, and the generally noncivilized.

But by the same token, no one can have failed to notice that a certain type of conservative can pretend to be #2 at the expense of #3, so that he ends up being a dogma-spewing robot with no uniqueness about him. I'm sure you know the type. They scare many people away from religion, in part because it looks as if you have to give up your uniqueness (which is not the same as ego).

If you've followed me this far, then you will understand what Schuon means when he says that "Relativism engenders a spirit of rebellion and is at the same time its fruit. The spirit of rebellion, unlike holy anger, is not a passing state, nor is it directed at some worldly abuse; on the contrary it is a chronic malady directed toward Heaven and against everything that represents Heaven or is a reminder of it."

Thus, to come back full circle, our quixotic troll thinks he's tilting at a windbag named Bob, but his real beef is with God, or #1. I'm only #3. And yes, I'm certain of that. But I'm working on inching my way up.

[T]he primordial and normative attitude is this: to think only in reference to what surpasses us and to live for the sake of surpassing ourselves.... Not to acknowledge what surpasses us and not to wish to surpass ourselves: this is... the very definition of Lucifer. --F. Schuon